U.S. exempts seven countries from Iran sanctions, excluding China

The Obama administration announced on Monday that seven countries will be exempted from U.S. economic sanctions by reducing imports of Iranian oil. However, negotiations continue with China. The announcement came before a June 28 deadline in which countries must significantly reduce Iranian oil imports or be cut off from the U.S. financial system. The sanctions ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration announced on Monday that seven countries will be exempted from U.S. economic sanctions by reducing imports of Iranian oil. However, negotiations continue with China. The announcement came before a June 28 deadline in which countries must significantly reduce Iranian oil imports or be cut off from the U.S. financial system. The sanctions are part of a larger strategy intended to put intense pressure on Iran to halt its alleged nuclear weapons program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced waivers to seven major importers: India, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Taiwan. However, negotiations have continued with China, one of Iran's top three buyers. Imports were estimated to have been reduced by a third in the first quarter of 2012, although it is unclear to analysts if China is complying with reductions or if this merely was a result of a price dispute with Iran. In a news conference, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said, "China imports oil from Iran through normal channels, which are transparent and do not violate U.N. resolutions and do not hurt other countries' interests." A senior U.S. administration official was optimistic, saying "We've been able to work through sanctions-related issues with China in the past, and our hope is that we'll be able to do the same with China over the next few weeks." Nonetheless, Clinton said this set of waivers proves sanctions on Iran are working stating, "By reducing Iran's oil sales, we are sending a decisive message to Iran's leaders: Until they take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, they will continue to face increasing isolation and pressure."

Syria

International envoy Kofi Annan is calling for world powers to "twist arms" to halt escalating Syrian violence. Annan is hoping to assemble an influential contact group to apply pressure on the government of Bashar al-Assad. According to Annan's spokesman, Ahmed Fawzi, the list is not yet set; but it could include Syria's closest allies, Russia, China, and Iran. Violence continued on Tuesday as 10 protesters were reported killed in government forces' shelling of Deir el-Zour. Clashes have gone on for over a week in Heffe between opposition fighters and security forces backed by helicopters and tanks. Meanwhile, the United Nations' annual report on children and armed conflict for 2011 included Syrian government forces and militia on a list of 52 countries and armed groups that recruit, kill, or sexually assault children in armed conflict. According to the U.N. special representative, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Syrian soldiers are torturing and killing children, and in some cases, putting them on tanks and in front of buses to be used as "human shields." However, she also criticized the Free Syria Army for recruiting children, who she said were mostly in medical and service positions, but were nonetheless endangered by being on the front line.

The Obama administration announced on Monday that seven countries will be exempted from U.S. economic sanctions by reducing imports of Iranian oil. However, negotiations continue with China. The announcement came before a June 28 deadline in which countries must significantly reduce Iranian oil imports or be cut off from the U.S. financial system. The sanctions are part of a larger strategy intended to put intense pressure on Iran to halt its alleged nuclear weapons program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced waivers to seven major importers: India, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Taiwan. However, negotiations have continued with China, one of Iran’s top three buyers. Imports were estimated to have been reduced by a third in the first quarter of 2012, although it is unclear to analysts if China is complying with reductions or if this merely was a result of a price dispute with Iran. In a news conference, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said, "China imports oil from Iran through normal channels, which are transparent and do not violate U.N. resolutions and do not hurt other countries’ interests." A senior U.S. administration official was optimistic, saying "We’ve been able to work through sanctions-related issues with China in the past, and our hope is that we’ll be able to do the same with China over the next few weeks." Nonetheless, Clinton said this set of waivers proves sanctions on Iran are working stating, "By reducing Iran’s oil sales, we are sending a decisive message to Iran’s leaders: Until they take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, they will continue to face increasing isolation and pressure."

Syria

International envoy Kofi Annan is calling for world powers to "twist arms" to halt escalating Syrian violence. Annan is hoping to assemble an influential contact group to apply pressure on the government of Bashar al-Assad. According to Annan’s spokesman, Ahmed Fawzi, the list is not yet set; but it could include Syria’s closest allies, Russia, China, and Iran. Violence continued on Tuesday as 10 protesters were reported killed in government forces’ shelling of Deir el-Zour. Clashes have gone on for over a week in Heffe between opposition fighters and security forces backed by helicopters and tanks. Meanwhile, the United Nations’ annual report on children and armed conflict for 2011 included Syrian government forces and militia on a list of 52 countries and armed groups that recruit, kill, or sexually assault children in armed conflict. According to the U.N. special representative, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Syrian soldiers are torturing and killing children, and in some cases, putting them on tanks and in front of buses to be used as "human shields." However, she also criticized the Free Syria Army for recruiting children, who she said were mostly in medical and service positions, but were nonetheless endangered by being on the front line.

Headlines  

  • Yemeni officials reported the town of Jaar has been "deserted" by al Qaeda and retaken by the Yemeni army.
  • A Libyan extremist group has taken responsibility for last week’s U.S. consulate bombing in Benghazi, as well as several other recent attacks retaliating for U.S. drone strikes.
  • Israeli immigration police detained 73 Africans, mostly South Sudanese migrants, in the third day of Operation "Going Home," aimed for the expulsion of all illegal immigrants.
  • According to Iranian state news agency, Fars, Iran is at the beginning stages of design for building nuclear submarines, which the country claims are for defensive purposes.

Arguments & Analysis

Gaza Five Years On: Hamas Settles In‘ (Nathan J. Brown, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

"Much of Hamas’s Islamizing agenda has been put on hold for now, but the political system is completely bereft of any mechanisms of accountability. The media and domestic NGOs are carefully controlled. Opposition parties can do what they like privately, but they remain restricted in what they can do openly or publicly. And the process of rebuilding the legal system has sometimes enabled and rarely obstructed the authoritarian characteristics of Gaza governance. Entrenching authoritarianism offers Palestinians few options. A spate of unity agreements between the West Bank and Gaza-most recently a May 2012 accord-cannot obscure the reality that real steps toward unity have not been taken. There is no easy route out of Palestine’s plight, but it is difficult to imagine much change without some pressure from below. And that is worrying, since elections are very difficult to imagine at present. As long as Gazans-and all Palestinians-remain voiceless in their own affairs, it is difficult to see any path forward."

Re: Canard Enchaîné, Qatar in northern Mali and Algeria‘ (The Moor Next Door blog)

"Claims of Qatari support for armed groups in Mali are not preposterous though as yet unconfirmed. If there are Qatari princes who are providing money to groups in northern Mali and the government of Qatari is turning the blind eye or is unaware this is one thing; if the government of Qatar, as policy, is sending money to any of these groups this is something else. Right now little is known in public that is concrete and verified. If there is indeed Qatari money moving to the rebel groups in northern Mali it is more likely to be along the lines of the first scenario, rather than the second, based on the example of Qatari involvement with al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s, where individuals who were also involved in aid or religious activities became close to al-Qa’ida operatives and similar organisations. Limited Qatari interest in northern Mali and the Sahel can be traced back at least to the 1980s when Qataris, with other Gulf Arabs, were active in helping to establish Islamic charities and relief groups which also tended to help spread these groups’ religious agendas. Similar activities continue in the region today. At the end of the day, though, there is still this report adding new variables and new questions – and there are still more questions than answers."

Detained in Libya‘ (The New York Times)

"A Libyan militia has detained four officials of the International Criminal Court since Thursday on spurious charges. They should be released immediately…This episode is also a chilling reminder to the international community of the continuing chaos in Libya – where fighting among powerful rival local militias is on the rise. Suspected Qaddafi loyalists have been hunted down and killed; foreign journalists and government officials have been kidnapped. The United States and Europe intervened militarily to give Libyans a chance to build a just and stable society. They need to make clear that continued international aid and support is dependent on Libya’s respect for the rule of law. The Libyan government agreed to the visit of the International Criminal Court delegation, and it bears responsibility for the group’s safety. Unless Libya can prove that it can provide a fair and secure trial for Mr. Qaddafi, he should be transferred to The Hague. The reputation of Libya’s government is on the line here. The world should pay close attention."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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